Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Energy Drinks in Vietnam


Recently I had the chance to visit Vietnam and with me I brought all of the energy drinks that I could find in safe and clear plastic bottles. I wish I was able to bring all of the ones I had there, but many came in cans, glass bottles and even sealed plastic "to-go" cups. Normally I would have securely placed the glass bottles in my check-in luggage, but unfortunately on the way there our luggage was so roughly handled that a 1L bottle of scotch that I was bringing as a present was broken...sad. Therefore I could not take any risks and have anything fragile in my luggage. I did have some cans in my carry-on, but due to safety regulations which I completely forgot about, the containers had to be see through and as such the cans were disposed of by a friendly airport security lady.

Before I review these real quick, I should note that energy drinks are even more widely spread than in North America and are much cheaper than anything we have here. Red Bull (the Thai one) is sold absolutely everywhere where water and beer are sold. In fact, it seemed like Red Bull was a necessity right after water. A can of the stuff ran anywhere from $0.70 to $1.25 depending on the location.

Taste

Sting

Sting is made by Pepsi and from what I saw it comes in two different flavors - regular and strawberry. The regular one smells like Red Bull and tastes like a mix between Red Bull and a regular Monster, except sweeter than both. The aftertaste is candy-like sweet and feels "sticky" from all the sugar. The cough syrup flavor has been dialed down and there are no other obvious medicinal notes. Not the biggest fan of this one.

Taste - 6/10

Sting Strawberry

This one smells like fresh strawberries and tastes EXACTLY like a red gummy bear. I mean, the energy drink is so sweet that it is just like drinking a melted down pile of red gummy bears. I like red gummy bears, but when I have to consume 330 mL of melted down gummies, I stopped liking them at about 1/3rd of the bottle. Ice helps, but you are still left with a sickly sweet aftertaste.

Taste - 6.2/10

X2

You guessed it - another strawberry energy drink, but this one has a nasty plastic aroma with almost no strawberries in it. The taste is better and much less sweet than the strawberry Sting, but still sweeter than what I am used to. There is still a hint of the plastic taste, but it is much less than the aroma. There is also an odd undertone that is either more plastic or a medicinal ingredient. Not sure if this one is any better than the strawberry Sting, but I was able to consume a bit more of it before I got really tired of the sickly sweet taste.

Taste - 5.8/10

Red Dragon

Another red drink and another strawberry energy drink...wait, nope, this is just borderline strawberry. It is a mix between a raspberry and a strawberry and probably my favorite of the 3 strawberry energy drinks. It is almost as sweet as the other ones, but that little bit less makes it much better to drink. Ice really helps down on the sweetness thanks to the tiny bit of water that melts and dilutes the flavor.

Taste - 6.5/10

Overall, all of these energy drinks, and all other ones I had in Vietnam are VERY sweet so it is recommended to consume them with ice or cold water unless you are into extremely sweet drinks.

Energy

Unlike energy drinks in North America, the Vietnamese energy drinks contain less caffeine and the contents are often reported on a 1 L basis. I have provided these concentrations and converted them to a "per bottle" basis below:

  • Sting - 250 mg/L or 82.5 mg per bottle
  • Sting Strawberry - 250 mg/L or 82.5 mg per bottle
  • X2 - 220 mg/L or 72.6 mg per bottle
  • Red Dragon - 190 mg/L or 62.7 mg per bottle
Yup, no energy drinks came even close to the numbers we are used to seeing. 

Since all drinks are so sweet, the effects are immediate and headache inducing if you have more than a bottle at a time. You get an immediate sugar rush with a huge dose of jitters followed by about an hour of caffeine rush followed by a moderate to severe crash depending on your natural energy level. 

Scores:
Cost - $0.90
Energy - 5/10

Overall - 10.8/20 to 11.5/20...all were extremely sweet with a terrible sugar rush and a crash

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Revive by 7up

I have been seeing Revive ads everywhere since coming to Vietnam but it took a week of constant bombardment to cave in and get a can...at Ba Na.

Revive is an Isotonic drink packed with vitamins like B3, B6 and B12...and probably a lot more. The drink tastes like a blend between light grapefruit drink and a less sweet 7up with a moderately salty finish due to the high sodium content. The finish is dry but the drink is super refreshing. A can will set you back about $1-$1.75 at cafes.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Mt. Rainier Caffe Latte

This is a "review on the run" of a coffee beverage I purchased at Narita airport on the way to Hanoi for about $2. I totally needed this after not sleeping for over 24 hours and drinking well into the morning upon arrival to Hanoi.

The beverage comes in a very sturdy plastic container with a collapsible straw attached to the side. Removing the lid allows access to the tin foil you penetrate to reach the liquid.

Taste

The late has a milky start with a very strong espresso follow up note which lingers well into the finish. The beverage is very lightly sweetened but the sweetness doesn't come until near the finish and lasts for brief moments before the bitter coffee flavor overpowers it.

Energy

I got a nice kick out of the late which can only be compared to a single shot of espresso which lasted for an hour or so. If I knew, I would have bought another one.

Scores:
Cost - $2
Taste - 8/10
Energy - 6/10

Overall - 14/20...great packaged coffee but too small for me

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Chillo Hemp Energy Drink Review


Earlier this week I was at Queen West in Toronto buying some bitters and maraschino cherries for the "home bar" when I noticed the word "energy" in the corner of my eye. Upon further investigation, I saw that the there were a few energy drinks chilling (hehe...they were in a fridge) in the corner of the store. I couldn't really see what they were but I asked the store owner to add one to my list of items.

When I got home I investigate the purchase and the shockingly high price of $4.99 for the tiny 250 mL can....$5 for a Chillo Hemp Energy Drink? Oh well, given the fact that there hasn't been anything new recently (is it me or is this energy drink craze fading away?), $5 is fine.

Taste

I bet you are as excited as me to learn what a hemp energy drink tastes like, right? Well it tastes like a Red Bull with an earthy, hempy tone. I was expecting something completely different, but a few things should have tipped me off - the drink is made in Austria and it comes in a 250 mL can. I am sure Chillo uses the same base but with the added hemp seed extracts.

Don't get me wrong, I love the taste of Red Bull, but I was expecting a bit more originality out of this one. The earthiness is a nice touch, but come on...spice it up a bit more.

Energy

Caffeine is one of the main ingredients, but there is no indication of how much is in the can. Since this is a Red Bull clone, I will assume that there are around 80 mg of caffeine in the can. But just to be sure, I also investigated the company website, which revealed more of nothing so I will go ahead and assume there are 80 mg of caffeine in the can.

This assumption is probably correct since the effects are similar to those of Red Bull - a quick sugar rush followed by about 1 to 2 hours of a boost. There are some jitters, but I thought they weren't too bad. I didn't experience a crash at the end, but I did have this first thing in the morning and when I drink an energy drink first thing in the morning, I don't normally experience a crash once the effects end.

Scores:
Cost - $4.99 from the Queen West store in Toronto that sells bitters
Taste - 8/10
Energy - 6/10

Overall - 14/20...tastes like an earthy Red Bull

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jay Street Coffee Vanilla Review


And this is the last of the Jay Street Coffee flavors I was able to find locally. Check out the Mocha and Latte reviews.

Taste

This one has a very uninviting muddy color. In the picture, it looks like any other iced coffee, but in reality, it looks like watery mud.

Looks are only a tiny part of the equation. How does it taste? Well, the aroma has a very subtle, very light hint of vanilla. Over 90% of the composition of the aroma is practically the same as the Latte. The flavor is almost the same as well - sweet and milky at the start followed by medium coffee notes.

In the finish is where the vanilla emerges for the first time and builds up into the aftertaste. Give it a few seconds and all you can taste in the aftertaste is the vanilla, a bit of the milk raunchiness and some mild coffee notes. Personally, I like how subtle the vanilla flavoring is, but those expecting a vanilla punch will be left disappointed. So, do yourself a favor - if you like a strong vanilla flavor, look elsewhere. But if you like just a subtle note - this will do the trick for you.

Energy

I will have to re-use the Energy section of the Latte review again because these three flavors have the same base ingredients and perform about the same...and I am lazy.

There is no indication of the amount of caffeine on the label, but if I had to guess from the effects, I would say that it is in the 120 to 140 mg range. I felt the typical coffee boost within 10-15 minutes from taking the first few sips. There were some jitters due to the 40 grams of sugar in the bottle, but they were relatively mild.

Once the full caffeine effect kicked up, it felt like I just had a regular cup of coffee. The effects lasted for 2-3 hours and there was no crash at the end.

Scores:
Cost - $1.99 from T&T
Taste - 8.5/10
Energy - 7.5/10

Overall - 16/20...smooth and easy to drink with a very subtle vanilla hint in the aftertaste

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Jay Street Coffee Mocha Review


So I did go back to T&T to get the other Jay Street Coffees after I reviewed the Latte earlier. Both were $1.99 and there was plenty of them at the Cherry Street location.

Taste

As expected, this one has chocolate aromas at the front and coffee at the back. The mouthfeel is significantly thicker than the Latte, or your average coffee, but I think it is right about what I would expect from a mocha.

Like the aroma, the taste starts off with a heavy chocolate note which quickly gives way to boozy, amaretto/brandy-like note before the coffee and cream flavors kick in. I liked it! The morphing of flavors makes it stand out from the rest of the iced coffees and it wasn't something I was expecting from Jay Street Coffee. The mocha is very smooth and almost perfectly balanced. I say almost, because the sweetness does build up, but it takes a while so I was able to finish most of the bottle before it started to bother me.

The aftertaste is a bit raunchy due to the milk. There are some trace chocolate and amaretto notes, but the raunchiness is strong and covers most of them up.

Energy

I am going to have to steal this section from my previous review since the contents are similar (yes, even the sugar) and so were the effects.

There is no indication of the amount of caffeine on the label, but if I had to guess from the effects, I would say that it is in the 120 to 140 mg range. I felt the typical coffee boost within 10-15 minutes from taking the first few sips. There were some jitters due to the 40 grams of sugar in the bottle, but they were relatively mild.

Once the full caffeine effect kicked up, it felt like I just had a regular cup of coffee. The effects lasted for 2-3 hours and there was no crash at the end.

Scores:
Cost - $1.99 from T&T
Taste - 8.9/10
Energy - 7.5/10

Overall - 16.4/20...smooth and tasty with a unique twist

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Jay Street Coffee Latte Review


I found a shelf of Jay Street Coffee at the local T&T Supermarket for about $1.99 each. There were other flavours like vanilla and mocha, but I decided to start with the latte and see if it is worth picking up the other 2.

If you are wondering why this iced coffee was available at the local Asian grocery store, it is because Jay Street Coffee is a Thai product.

Taste

First off, before I get to the taste, I need to say something about the color of the iced coffee - it is beige and depressing. I don't know why but when I was about to crack it open, I noticed the gloomy beigeness of it and it really got to me. It looks like someone threw in a handful of mud or sand in clear water.

Fortunately the taste saves it. The iced coffee aroma is rich with roasted coffee notes and with a little bit of sweet cream. The mouthfeel is medium and the flavour starts off with sweet milky notes. Just a brief moment after the milkiness comes, medium roasted coffee notes emerge and linger well into the finish.

The aftertaste is a bit raunchy as with any other iced coffee, but there is a nice base layer of coffee reminding you of what you just consumed. Overall, the flavour was mild and inoffensive, the sweetness was well balanced and there is enough of the coffee notes here and there. Jay Street Coffee Latte went down quickly and smoothly.

Energy

There is no indication of the amount of caffeine on the label, but if I had to guess from the effects, I would say that it is in the 120 to 140 mg range. I felt the typical coffee boost within 10-15 minutes from taking the first few sips. There were some jitters due to the 40 grams of sugar in the bottle, but they were relatively mild.

Once the full caffeine effect kicked up, it felt like I just had a regular cup of coffee. The effects lasted for 2-3 hours and there was no crash at the end.

Overall, I really enjoyed this coffee and will get the other flavours to try as well. The coffee was smooth, easy to drink and offered a great boost for $1.99.

Scores:
Cost - $1.99
Taste - 8.5/10
Energy - 7.5/10

Overall - 16/20...smooth, easy drinking, decent kick